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Latest On EU Copyright Directive: No One's Happy With Article 13, So Maybe Let's Drop It? [Op-Ed]

1As negotiations between the EU Council, EU Commission, and EU Parliament have progressed regarding the EU Copyright directive, something which they all passed different versions of, the directive overall (and Article 13 in particular) has devolved into a mess no one, it seems, wants.

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Op-ed by Mike Masnick of Techdirt

Over the last few weeks, the so-called trilogue negotiations between the EU Council, the EU Commission and the EU Parliament on the EU Copyright Directive have continued, and it appears to have created quite a mess. As you'll recall, because the Council, the Commission, and the Parliament all passed somewhat different versions of the Directive, they now have to go through this process to come up with a version that they all agree on -- and based on some of the proposals and discussions that have come out, it's been a total mess. And specifically on Article 13 -- the provision that will mandate upload filters -- the current situation is a total mess.

Seriously, it's so bad that basically no one wants it any more. And, yes, that includes some of the copyright extremists from the legacy copyright industries. Over the weekend, a group of entertainment organizations -- including the MPAA's international branch, the MPA, the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) and the notoriously aggressive copyright litigant, the Premier League, all got together to send a letter complaining about Article 13 and the direction it's gone in. Hilariously, they're not complaining that it's over-aggressive -- rather they're whining that Article 13 might actually have been made fairer as the negotiations have gone on. Specifically, they're upset that there are now safe harbors proposed for platforms to help them avoid liability. These entertainment groups apparently think safe harbors are some sort of damn loophole:

Recall that the initial goal of Article 13 was to codify the existing case-law in a way that would enable right holders to better control the exploitation of their content vis a vis certain OCSSPs which currently wrongfully claim they benefit from the liability privilege of Article 14 E-Commerce Directive.

However, unfortunately, the Value Gap provision has mutated in such a way that it now strengthens even further the role of OCSSPs to the direct detriment of right holders and completely undermines the status quo in terms of the EU liability regime. Some of the options proposed for discussion at trilogue level indeed wrongfully undermine current law and weaken right holders’ exclusive rights by, among others: creating a new liability privilege for certain platforms that have taken specific steps to avoid the availability of infringing copyright content on their services (but have failed to do so effectively), and conditioning protection of copyright online on right holders bearing the full burden of identifying and notifying copyright infringing content to platforms. These would constitute gifts to already powerful platforms, and would de facto constitute the only real change to the current status quo in legal terms, thus improving the position of platforms, but not of right holders.

3Much of this complaint is complete bullshit. Article 13 has never been about "codifying existing case-law." It has always been about upending case law in Europe (and elsewhere) to completely gut intermediary liability protections, end user-generated content platforms, and turn the internet into a TV-like broadcast system, where the legacy company have "control" again (i.e., they get to extract monopoly rents as gatekeepers). The fact that the trilogue negotiations have introduced safe harbors should be seen as a good thing, but obviously not to the signatories of this letter.

Incredibly, the signers of the letter actually ask the negotiators to drop Article 13, or, at the very least limit it to merely applying to musical works. That would still be a problem, but would certainly stop most of the collateral damage that Article 13 would cause in its present state.

Meanwhile, many other companies are recognizing just how damaging Article 13 would be. Reddit has started alerting all of its EU users (and pointing them to our very own DontWreckThe.Net website), pointing out how disastrous the EU Copyright Directive would be for everyone who uses Reddit:

The problem with the Directive lies in Articles 11 (link licensing fees) and 13 (copyright filter requirements), which set sweeping, vague requirements that create enormous liability for platforms like ours. These requirements eliminate the previous safe harbors that allowed us the leeway to give users the benefit of the doubt when they shared content. But under the new Directive, activity that is core to Reddit, like sharing links to news articles, or the use of existing content for creative new purposes (r/photoshopbattles, anyone?) would suddenly become questionable under the law, and it is not clear right now that there are feasible mitigating actions that we could take while preserving core site functionality. Even worse, smaller but similar attempts in various countries in Europe in the past have shown that such efforts have actually harmed publishers and creators...

Accordingly, we hope that today's action will drive the point home that there are grave problems with Articles 11 and 13, and that the current trilogue negotiations will choose to remove both entirely. Barring that, however, we have a number of suggestions for ways to improve both proposals. Engine and the Copia Institute have compiled them here at https://dontwreckthe.net/. We hope you will read them and consider calling your Member of European Parliament (look yours up here). We also hope that EU lawmakers will listen to those who use and understand the internet the most, and reconsider these problematic articles. Protecting rights holders need not come at the cost of silencing European internet users.

Also, the massive video streaming site Twitch has now started alerting users to the harms of Article 13 as well:

Article 13 changes the dynamic of how services like Twitch have to operate, to the detriment of creators.

Because Article 13 makes Twitch liable for any potential copyright infringement activity with uploaded works, Twitch could be forced to impose filters and monitoring measures on all works uploaded by residents of the EU. This means you would need to provide copyright ownership information, clearances, or take other steps to prove that you comply with thorny and complicated copyright laws. Creators would very likely have to contend with the false positives associated with such measures, and it would also limit what content we can make available to viewers in the EU.

Operating under these constraints means that a variety of content would be much more difficult to publish, including commentary, criticism, fan works, and parodies. Communities and viewers everywhere would also suffer, with fewer viewer options for entertainment, critique, and more.

So, at this point, we have the internet platforms calling out how the Copyright Directive will harm all sorts of creators by making the platforms they use impossible. We have the film and sports industries complaining that there might actually be some safe harbors included in Article 13, which would apparently ruin the whole point for them (!?!?!?!?!?). The only one who still thinks Article 13 is a good thing apparently is the legacy recording industry who has been fairly open in that the entire point of Article 13 is to force YouTube to pay them more (even though it wouldn't actually do that).

So, hey, maybe it's time to scrap Articles 11 and 13 and not try to rush through copyright proposals that will have a massive impact on how the internet works, done by bureaucrats who clearly don't understand the impacts of what they're proposing, while in backroom negotiations?

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